My last set of trees for this week were painted this month, inspired by an amazing day out I had in May this year. I was working at the Watermill in Bagnor on “Love on the Tracks” which was quite a ‘full on’ experience. It is a wonderful place but quite remote, if you don’t have a vehicle to get about. I was there alone one weekend when, just at midnight, an old friend of mine from a show called, “Never So Good” we were in together at the NT, called me.
“Spats! How lovely to hear from you!” – I was somewhat surprised and thought, given the hour, he might have mis-dialled.
“Where are you?” he asked.
“In Bagnor, at the Actor’s Cottage.” I replied.
“Good!” he said, “I’m just outside your door – I was in the area and I thought I’d drop in for a coffee”. And sure enough, I looked out of the window and there he was in an open-topped sports car.
We sat on the step and had a coffee and caught up on the intervening months. Spats is passionate about cricket and fishing and he can speak very engagingly about pretty much anything. (On the basis of one of his diatribes about the Mayflies hatching, I’d once suggested we should record a programme about the week the mayflies come out on the river for Radio 4. Perhaps we will still get to do that.) Spats lives in Hungerford and is lucky enough to be one of the Commoners who owns bits of land (and cattle) around Hungerford and river rights that come with the house they own.
“What are you doing tomorrow?” he enquired.
“Right. We’re going on that fishing trip I promised you four years ago” he said.
And that is how the next day, I came to be driven to Hungerford in an open-topped sports car and taught how to stalk after trout down the River Kennet by my pal Spats. I wasn’t a very good student. I’d brought my camera and my sketch book and spent the afternoon strolling after him with my sketchbook in the palm of my hand. Meanwhile, just around the point I turned into the painting above, Spats spotted rings in the water and five minutes after that, he’d landed our supper. I’ve never had freshly caught fish like that before. I cooked that trout reverently and ate every last piece to honour it properly. It was a very memorable afternoon and I knew then there would be some paintings from that afternoon… So if you’re reading this, Spats; Gawd bless you – and thanks again!